Go go gadget anime-style episode naming!
Character Count: 15,954
Chromas trudged down the dirt path back into town, groaning quietly to himself and kicking up dirt under his leather hiking boots. He was a young man of almost seventeen now, with coarse, rusty-red hair and the look of an outdoorsman, with tan canvas pants, a heavy backpack and a trainer's belt to match. He was also wearing a thick blue vest over an untidy black t-shirt, which was still damp from sweat after running across the countryside all morning.
He looked around at the sparse mountainside woods; he couldn't recognize anything from earlier in the morning. It was all just dry evergreens and a few patches of weeds in the dirt where Nidoran and the like were nesting. This stretch of the route was featureless and boring, hardly even inhabited by Pokémon - the only good thing to be said was that the mountain was blocking the morning heat, and even that benefit would be lost in the next hour. Thanks to that blasted Skarmory leading him on a chase for a good five miles, not only had he completely lost his bearings out in the steep hills, but he was also tired and sweaty from over an hour of running and climbing – and for what? So that rusty bird could mock him from beyond his reach, then leave him high and dry while it went to perch on the mountain? It was a good thing he had tired himself out by that point, or he would have chased the thing all the way to the peak, where it probably would have taunted him and flown off yet again, wasting even more of his day than it already had.
Though he had a strong urge to kick the nearest tree, Chromas decided against it – it wouldn’t do anything besides hurt his foot and possibly anger some Combee or something. Instead, he just dug his hands even further into his pockets and lowered his gaze back to the ground. This had been a complete and miserable waste of his morning. The only good thing that could be said was that he had, by some miracle, managed to find his way back onto the main trail. And now what was he supposed to do? He’d chased that Skarmory all the way from town, not even thinking about where he would end up. There were no Steel-type Pokémon in these woods, except in Mt. Mortar, but Chromas didn’t have the right supplies to try navigating the caves right now – he would only get himself hopelessly lost. No, the best thing to do at the moment was head back to Ekruteak, still close enough that he could make it by noon. This little excursion had led him in the opposite direction from Olivine, so he’d eventually have to pass through the town again, anyway.
Before long, Chromas reached the brick gatehouse hailing him back to civilization, there more for the purpose of show nowadays than anything else. Hardly acknowledging the guard on duty, he kept walking straight forward, staring intently at the stone streets and old city architecture in front of him. He was tired and hungry. There was absolutely no way that he was going to get through toward Olivine without at least stopping for a meal.
Wandering through the noon street crowds, Chromas eventually came across a familiar hole-in-the-wall restaurant by the name of “Stomping Grounds”. Honestly, he couldn’t remember how he was introduced to this place at all; ordinarily he would overlook a coffee shop in a run-down old building. Oddly enough, though, he had since made this place one of his regular hangouts, as he tended to pass through Ekruteak often enough, anyway. Entering through the beaten wood door, he could see that the place’s interior still matched it exterior. The owner tended to like to leave the restaurant in a certain state of disarray to maintain an atmosphere about it, and most of the regulars appreciated it to a degree, since everything was kept reasonably clean.
Chromas slid comfortably onto one of the bar stools, dropping his forest green backpack to the ground while keeping one of the straps looped around his leg – he had never had a problem here before, but one could never be too careful. Looking around, the shop was mostly empty, though not quite as much as usual. It was entirely possible that between the old TV in the corner and the murmuring travelers he might catch some decent information being thrown around, but he didn’t particularly care at the moment. He knew where he was heading toward next, anyway. Nothing consequential was likely to come from any café gossip.
While he was still looking around, Chromas saw the composed young bartender grabbing a lunch menu and already heading in his direction. Before the bartender could set the menu down, and without even looking at the menu, Chromas placed an order for a Reuben sandwich – he had found it absolutely delicious his second visit to the shop, and hadn’t brought himself to try anything else since. The bartender gave a quick nod and marked down his order, then left.
Chromas sighed and leaned back in his chair, running a hand through his coarse, rusty-red hair and trying to listen in the direction of a trio of patrons hardly older than himself and dressed in trainer gear. Luckily, the restaurant was fairly quiet most of the time, but that meant that they, too, were keeping their conversation quiet. Still, he could make out enough to piece together what they were saying:
“…bit more common than usual,” came a voice in a brash tenor.
“And?” demanded a second, impatient female voice. “It’s not exactly like they’re really rare to begin with. I mean, what, how long did it take you to find one when they weren’t swarming, Vince?”
A different male voice replied, “Eh… a couple hours, maybe. Then again, I didn’t have this joker announcing his presence to everything in the forest.”
“Aw, I’m not that bad, am I?” asked the first.
“Yes,” the other two responded in unison.
A short pause.
“Fine,” replied the first voice, “but still, I’m probably not going to use one, somehow I doubt that you will, and I’m sure that the professors have plenty to access from other trainers in the network. We should just move on.”
“He’s got a point,” the other boy added. “It pretty much is in the exact opposite direction that we’re heading, anyway.”
The girl gave a dissatisfied harrumph. “We’re not exactly pressed for time, but yeah, I get your point. I just thought I’d bring it up.”
“Hey,” the tenor boy interjected, “Did you know that the mines in Oreburgh in Sinnoh go down almost eight miles straight down? Random fact, just thought I’d bring it up.”
At this point, Chromas heard a thud and a grunt of pain, marking the point at which listening in wouldn’t help him any further, but he had heard enough already, anyway. Just as he was beginning to piece together the relevant bits, the bartender had set his plate in front of him, snapping Chromas back to reality. After a quick thanks, he started on his sandwich and returned to his thoughts.
Some Pokémon species was apparently “swarming” around here… and there were a few Pokémon in the general area that he wouldn’t mind on his team. It was probably on the route to the west, too; the group said something about being on a schedule, meaning that they were probably league challengers, and the only straight path that a gym challenger would logically take through Mahogany would be going from west to east. They said it was in the opposite direction of their travel, meaning that the swarm would have to be in the direction they came from.
Chromas took the last bite of his sandwich and reached for his milk. There were only a few species rare enough to be worth noting that inhabited the route between here and Olivine, namely Farfetch’d, Miltank, Tauros, and few occasional migratory species that weren’t native to Johto… none of which were Pokémon that he really cared about. Narrow-minded as it seemed, he was going after Steel-type Pokémon, and none of those fit the criteria. He let out a sigh. That had turned out to be a total dead end. Sure, Magnemite were native to the route out to Olivine, too, but they weren’t rare enough for a minor population boom to be of any significance.
Marginally disappointed, Chromas pulled a few bills out of his wallet to pay for the meal, then took up his bag and left. Just to be sure about his assumptions, he pulled a pair of ear buds out of his pocket and tuned his Pokégear until he found a station reporting migration patterns. Sure enough, he was right – the swarm was just a herd of Luxio passing through. Chromas shrugged and stuffed the ear buds back into the inside pocket of his dark blue vest. It was what he had expected, anyway. It seemed he’d have to go through the normal process of hunting a Magnemite down himself. But how long would that take? They weren’t a terribly uncommon Pokémon, after all. It couldn’t be that bad.
“Ron, Aron,” Titan commented, pawing at the grass as he walked. Chromas admittedly didn’t understand Pokémon speech entirely, but he could tell that the implication was something to the effect of “this is frustrating.”
Chromas nodded, “I thought we’d be done in maybe an hour, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.” After traveling along the forest path Route 38 for a little over an hour, he had taken Titan and departed from the main road, heading off into the woods. Unfortunately, after spending most of his afternoon lurking around the dense trees as he had actually on the road, he had only caught sight of some stray Meowth and the usual common species like Raticate and Spearow. If he waited much longer, he’d start seeing nocturnal ones, too… how in the world did people have the patience to seek out the really rare species like Ralts and Heracross? Or was it just that he was getting unlucky? After all, he had been in close quarters with a Skarmory already with hardly any effort on his own part.
Then he had a thought. There was a much faster way of doing this.
“Hey, Titan,” Chromas said. The small Pokémon turned around and stared up at him with quiet blue eyes, and Chromas said, “do you feel any kind of… I dunno, like you feel like you’re being pulled somewhere?” The Aron looked puzzled for an instant and then nodded its head slowly. Chromas grinned.
“Excellent. Could you head in that direction? Try to stay quiet, just in case we run into anything.” The Aron pawed at the ground and turned in a tight circle, then pranced off in an odd path. It was just as he had thought; there were enough stray Magnemite around that their collective Magnet Pull ability was having a slight effect on Titan. Now he could use that to lead him straight to a wild one! Of course, he had just remembered it as an offhand tip from a magazine article he had found in a Pokémon Center, so he couldn’t take credit for the notion. Still, it was helpful.
It didn’t take very long after that – within five minutes, he had climbed over an earthy hill from which he could spot a small group of Magnemite off to his left, and an individual one straying behind. Chromas leaned down next to Titan and put a hand on his metal head, his other hand preemptively reaching for an empty Pokéball at his belt.
“All right, buddy, here’s the plan,” he explained. “If you can sneak up behind the lone one and hit it with a Mud-slap, I’ll follow behind and be ready for a capture. Sound good?” The iron turtle nodded its oversized head, made a sound that seemed like an agreement, and bounded down the hill. As soon as he reached the bottom, Chromas slid down after him, leaving two long skid marks in the soft dirt.
By the time he had caught his balance, Titan was already colliding with the Magnemite, the latter splattered with mud. Chromas beamed and clutched the ready Pokéball. This was the easy part!
“Titan, get it with another Mud-Slap!” he ordered. The Aron turned around, ready to kick dirt up in the magnetic Pokémon’s face, but as he reared his hind legs, the Magnemite was surrounded by a faint blue glow and began to float higher, just out of Aron’s reach.
“Never mind, it won’t work!” Chromas yelled. “Try to bring it down with a-” He stopped mid-sentence, trying to think of something – Titan didn’t have any ranged moves except for Mud-Slap, which was useless against what he assumed to be Magnet Rise.
“Just hold out until it attacks, then counter with Metal Burst!” Chromas called. Titan nodded and widened its stance, prepared to take a blow. Surely enough, the Magnemite delivered a bolt of electricity, which Titan took head-on. Despite looking like he had taken a fair bit of damage from the hit, the Aron turned his head upwards and sent a glowing silver ball of energy flying back at the Magnemite, hitting it with even more power than the initial electric attack and knocking the magnet-ball back down toward the ground.
Chromas took this opportunity and flung the Pokéball that he had ready, barely grazing the Magnemite but still causing it to be absorbed into the device. The ball fell to the ground about ten feet from where it had been hovering before, shaking violently. Chromas approached it while still staying a moderate distance away, watching intently as the convulsions settled down. The Pokéball moved around just a bit more before it seemed as though the Pokémon contained had given up resisting capture, and with a satisfying “ping,” it stopped entirely.
Beaming, Chromas bent over to pick up Titan and give him a hug for his efforts, but gave up quickly after trying and then remembering what Aron’s bodies were made of, and instead decided on just giving it a good pet on the head. Titan nodded and growled happily, and Chromas pulled Titan’s Pokéball out to recall him.
“God job, boy. Return,” he said, tapping the ball on the turtle’s forehead. Instead of absorbing the Pokémon as a mass of red light, like it had done to the Magnemite, the ball remained shut tight. Chromas tried twice more without effect. Was the Pokéball broken? No, he thought.
Gorramn it! He should have thought of this sooner; his tracking method had evidently backfired. Sure, the one Magnemite was caught, but now there was a whole herd of the same Pokémon not fifty meters away, probably now looking for their lost member.
“Titan, can you run away from the Magnemite at all?” Chromas asked, scrambling for his freshly-filled Pokéball. The Aron struggled to take a step backwards, but was making negligible progress. By this time, the swarm of magnets and steel balls had taken notice of the trainer boy and his Pokémon, and were drawing the appropriate conclusion, moving collectively toward them. In a panic, Chromas fumbled for his Pokédex. Maybe there was some move that he was forgetting that an Aron could use that would help them escape.
He flipped feverishly through the pages of information on his Pokémon until he got to the move data, already feeling the static radiated by the approaching Magnemite. Titan growled in front of him, though it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to last very long without the shock wound being treated. What was there?
“Try holding them off with Protect!” Chromas yelled, still fixated on the move list. He could hardly think straight. There must be something!
He could hear the clang of metal on metal as Titan attempted to defend their position. Come on! He couldn’t fight all of them. He had to either escape or force them away…
“Roar!” Chromas shouted suddenly. Looking up, he saw the Aron rear up on his hind legs, then let out a fierce bellow that defied his size. The Magnemite began to scramble themselves, then darted in different directions, fleeing in terror. Chromas breathed a deep sigh of relief. He had forgotten entirely about that move; it just never seemed like something useful to him, especially since Aron wasn’t a very tactically-minded species in the first place.
He shrugged. Everything had its use, he supposed.
“Can you move all right now, Titan?” Chromas asked. Titan wobbled in his direction, nodded once, and then began to fall to the ground. Chromas dove to support him, but only managed to get his hand pinned between the ground and sixty pounds of iron. Wincing a bit, he reached over his shoulder and felt around in his pack before grabbing hold of a small purple bottle with a spray nozzle.
“Thanks for hanging in there,” Chromas said, giving Titan a good look-over. He had a good-sized scorch mark on his back, along with a few assorted others and a slight dent in his forehead – not the best condition. He sprayed the scorch marks, which seemed to alleviate them a bit, then put the bottle away and took out Titan’s ball.
“Can’t do much more until we reach a Pokémon Center. Good work,” Chromas said, returning the Aron to his Pokéball. Standing up, Chromas looked around and rubbed his crushed hand. The sun was almost setting, and he hardly had three miles on the road. There was no way that he would reach Olivine today, and he probably wouldn’t get there for a couple of days, either. Besides, Titan really did need to visit a Center.
“Better get back to town, then,” Chomas said to himself, sticking his hands in his pockets and wandering off toward the main road.
Another day gone.